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Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor.
Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian barrister-at-law and solicitor.

By *Jeshua Bardoo 

Recently, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) took a step to amend various sexual offences under the Criminal Code. I commend SVG on this progressive step, as some stiffer penalties were passed for persons found guilty of certain sexual crimes.

However, despite the increase in penalties for certain sexual offences, substantial constitutional and human rights concerns continue to plague the Criminal Code. Below, I will highlight three points. However, the issues raised are not exhaustive.

Firstly, several sexual offences, on a plain or literal interpretation, continue to use language that is not gender-neutral. For example, under SVG’s current rape provision, the definition of rape is limited to a man raping a woman. It doesn’t matter one’s sex or gender, all persons in SVG deserve equal protection under the law. Due to a lack of gender neutrality, various sexual offences continue to institutionalise sexism, inequality, and discrimination under SVG’s Criminal Code.

Secondly, various sexual offences appear to violate fundamental rights and freedoms. Apart from several provisions facing deficits regarding the lack of a gender-neutral application, which is also a human rights issue, we have various laws that criminalise various aspects of prostitution and consensual same-sex relations between adults. These laws need to be revised so that instead of criminalising people who live, love, or work differently, SVG can honour its international human rights obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil human rights domestically.

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Thirdly, several of the sexual offences provisions, on a plain or literal interpretation, continue to have very narrow scopes. Therefore, they are inadequate to effectively address the very issues they were created to deal with. Again, I use the example of SVG’s current rape provision. This provision only captures acts of unlawful penile-vaginal sexual intercourse. What about rape via anal sex, oral sex, or even objects? These acts are not covered and therefore victims of rape are not being properly protected in the State!

It is the 21st century. It is time for SVG to take bold, modern, and progressive steps. The patriarchal, sexist, and homophobic undertones of various sexual offences under the Criminal Code need to be revised. Many of these laws are not adequate or compatible with contemporary best practices and international standards.

Vincentians deserve better protection for sexual crimes than what is currently afforded them under the Criminal Code. I am calling on the Government of SVG to protect our people with better sexual offences laws. We desperately need them!

Author: *Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian lawyer with an LLM in international human rights law. He is also the Founder and President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at [email protected]

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